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‘Long overdue:’ Deschutes County accepts $2 million in state funds for new secure residential treatment facility in Redmond

(adding video, comment from Behavioral Health director, county Commissioner)

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ). -- Deschutes County commissioners agreed Wednesday to accept $2 million in state funding for a new and much-needed secure residential treatment facility expected to be located in Redmond, only the second such facility in the county.

Deschutes County Health officials are ready to use the state grant to help attract a private partner to build and operate such a facility.

County Behavioral Health Manager Holly Harris says the need is critical.

“Building residential capacity in our area is long overdue, as I mentioned in the meeting," Harris said. "And so having this money to go towards that effort will go a long way."

While a 16-bed facility is proposed, Harris agreed with Commissioner Patti Adair that an even larger center could assist more people with mental health and behavioral needs. But laws dating from the 1960s limit the size of such a facility to 16 beds and to Harris are in overdue need of an update.

 "I think it's just advocacy at the legislative level to say, 'Okay, can we review this? Can we re-look at this? Are there opportunities for flexibility to meet community need?'” Harris said.

Harris says many adults who are civilly committed by courts due to mental health issues have nowhere to go. They’re either held at St. Charles or released to facilities with a lower level of care than they really need.

“Essentially, their rights are taken away for a period of up to 180 days. and we look to find a placement facility for them to get the necessary treatment, to get them into recovery," Harris said.

The facility will provide services to residents who may need clinical intervention, including seclusion, restraint, or involuntary emergency medication. The goal is to have it completed in 18-24 months.

Adair said, "We could use, you know, like four 16-bed facilities. We could use eight. it's just it's a real need."

The proposed facility will be the second  in Central Oregon. The Deschutes Recovery Center is a 16-bed facility in Bend and is overseen by the county.

The location of a new treatment center is being discussed - Deschutes County Health is giving Redmond strong consideration.     

“There's a property out there near the hospital that we're really excited about, so we'll see if that comes to fruition," Harris said. "But really anywhere we can get the land that's an appropriate spot is one we'll be interested in.”

 While the county has $2 million in state money for the project, the treatment center will cost much more. The county is looking for a private entity as a partner to offset costs, to build and operate it.

Harris told commissioners, “Our region is vastly under-resourced” in terms of treatment capacity for those who undergo the civil commitment process due to mental and behavioral health issues. There is one other such facility, the 16-bed Deschutes Recovery Center operated by Telecare at the county’s Public Safety Campus.

Adair said the need has been well-known for some time, but that another 16 beds “is just so limiting. We could definitely do a wonderful job with 32” more beds, and Harris agreed.

Harris also noted that Oregon’s civil commitment laws have not been updated since the ‘60s.

“We have a lot of work to do,” she said, and they have identified property in Redmond that could house the facility, but calling it too early in the process to be publicly identified.

Adair asked about the quick timeframe of 18-24 months, to which Harris said, “You know me! We needed it yesterday. Were absolutely moving as fast as we can. … Not having access to the Oregon State Hospital in a way that we need is really putting pressure on local communities.”

Commissioner Phil Chang, attending remotely from a meeting in The Dalles, said the price tag a few years back when such a treatment facility was discussed was $14 million. So he asked, “Where is the rest going to come from?”

Harris said an organization is interested in coming to the area ‘that has resources of its own,” from contractors to architects, and thus is “able to do them in a much more affordable way."

Record on disputed Bend-area winery reopened; decision delayed to fall

On another issue, commissioners agreed to reopen the written record of the proposed and disputed Lava Terrace winery off Bowery Lane north of Bend, at the applicant’s request. Wednesday had been set at the public hearing weeks ago as the day to begin deliberations, but the applicants asked to reopen the record to respond to issues raised in that hearing.

It’s an unusual step, one not fully outlined in county code, but commissioners Adair and Tony DeBone agreed to reopen the record on the matter; Chang had recused himself from the issue previously due to friendships on both sides, and campaign donations from the appellants, Toby and Michel Bayard.

The record will be open again until July 31, followed by a three-week rebuttal period and one more week for the applicants’ final legal argument – but no second public hearing. The record will close again August 28 and deliberations would happen in September.

Board seeks more financial numbers on possible RV campground north of Bend

Commissioners also agreed to keep looking at a possible RV campground on 50 acres of county-owned land off Fort Thompson Lane, north of Bend. They're seeking more specifics of how such a campground would pencil out at various sizes before proceeding any further on the complex land-use issues involved.

Chang said he will be talking with neighbors but stressed, to stem any confusion, that this is not planned as a managed homeless camp, and the site is not one of the potential properties for that type of facility. He said creating a “market-rate” RV campground “would draw some ‘van life’ people out of our public lands,” making it easier to identify the homeless campers that need somewhere else to go.

DeBone said there is a “huge market for this” type of campground for the growing number of Americans who are selling their homes, buying an RV and hitting the road to see America. He noted the luxury RV resort now nearing completion on Bend’s south end.

But Chang said a road to access the county-owned property could be the biggest part of the cost, depending on whether there are 50 RV hookups, or more on the order of 300: “What scale of campground is economically feasible?”

DeBone agreed: “I support getting some numbers” and moving the discussion “forward a little bit.”

Commissioners vote 2-1 to hear appeal of resort psilocybin center denial

The board also voted 2-1 to hear an appeal filed after a hearings officer rejected a proposed psilocybin service center at Juniper Preserve, the destination resort formerly known as Pronghorn.

It will be a “limited de novo” hearing, only on the four issues the denial was based on: two regarding screening of the parking lot, clearance areas for service drives, and a more complex issue in which the hearings officer found that transporting psilocybin on the resort’s easement across federal land would violate federal law and the easement conditions.

A memo from Associate Planner Audrey Stuart noted that the applicant claimed in the appeal that the parking area is effectively screened and buffered, there are competing parts of the county code regarding clear-vision areas, and “the hearings officer went beyond the scope of their review” by ruling on a BLM access easement, with an incorrect interpretation.

Chang said he was interested in hearing the appeal, noted it was the first proposal to navigate the rules for psilocybin service centers and calling it “important to fully test out those rules, how they work and what they do.” DeBone agreed to hear it as well, but Adair, without comment, voted no.

Stephanie Marshall, the county’s senior assistant legal counsel, called it “unlikely” that the state Land Use Board of Appeals – where the matter may well end up – would give deference to commissioners’ interpretation of its regulations regarding such facilities.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Matthew Draxton

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